Online Ph.D. Programs: A UK View

Posted in Information Schools, Libraries on June 3rd, 2005

As this excerpt from a recent JESSE message by Sheila Webber (Senior Lecturer, Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield) shows, the view of issues surrounding online Ph.D. programs can be quite different accoss the big pond. (You’ll recall that the Robert Gordon University is about to offer an online Ph.D. in addition to its six online master’s degrees.)

Firstly, the information (or an advertisement ;-) Sheffield University Department of Information Studies, in the UK, has options for our PhD programme—”Joint location” (full time—expected to complete the degree in normal 3 years, one year must be spent at Sheffield) and—"Remote location" (part time—there must be at least one face-to-face meeting per year, and there are conditions laid down for communication). At the moment, for example I am supervising one remote location student (an Irish librarian investigating Continuing Professional Development needs of solo librarians).

See: (info on studying away from Sheffield) (info on research degrees at Sheffield) (info on my Dept.—n.b. the detailed menu for more applications info, on the right of this page, including the format of the research proposal)

Sheffield is a research-led university and the Department of Information Studies has obtained the top possible score in all three of the UK’s Research Assessment Exercises (one of an exclusive band of Departments in any subject area to have done this). (OK, ad almost over.)

I *think* that British PhD programmes differ from North American ones in that the instructional component of British PhDs is less, with focus on developing and investigating your own research question throughout the three years. For full-time PhDs (on campus or joint location) there is a Research Training programme of credit-bearing modules (which most students would take during year 1). Part-time students do not have to take this programme. . . .

Finding people (in addition to your supervisor) to discuss your research with will obviously help you on your personal research journey, particularly people using the same research approach. For, e.g., some types of IR research there is a thriving research community within LIS and sometimes within individual Departments. For others (given the broad spectrum of research approaches which are employed across the whole LIS spectrum) you ideally would want to seek out fellow researchers elsewhere, anyway. Being a distance learner might push/encourage you to get "out there" that bit earlier. From that perspective, if you are able to identify a research community for that research approach internationally and engage in virtual and preferably face to face discussion (at conferences and seminars), this may exteremely valuable.

My feelings are that a mature PhD student may actually have the confidence to engage in this dialogue at an earlier stage, and also have have more command of resources (possibly!) to fund (or get funding for) attending research seminars etc. Also, having to explain and justify your research to interested fellow-practitioners back home can be very valuable & motivating. . . .

The Journal of Electronic Publishing Is Reborn

Posted in Announcements, E-Journals, Scholarly Communication on June 2nd, 2005

Good news! The Journal of Electronic Publishing is coming back after a long hiatus (the last issue was published in August 2002). New issues will be announced on PACS-P and other lists. See the press release below for details.

Contact: Maria S. Bonn Director, Scholarly Publishing Office, 734-763-3343,

Journal of Electronic Publishing Re-Launched by Library’s Scholarly Publishing Office

Ann Arbor, May 31, 2005—The Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan University Library will re-launch The Journal of Electronic Publishing (JEP) in January, 2006.

"JEP is an excellent fit for us in several ways," says Maria Bonn, Director of the Scholarly Publishing Office. "It is another outstanding journal that we can make available free over the Internet, it fits with our commitment to library-based scholarly publishing, and it covers the very area we are involved in, electronic publishing." Michigan’s Scholarly Publishing Office currently publishes 10 journals and four scholarly monograph series online.

JEP was started by the University of Michigan Press in 1995. In 2003 the press agreed to transfer the journal to the Columbia University Press, but the transfer was never completed and the journal—still at—has had no new issues since then.

"Since its first issue, JEP has been a source of innovative ideas, best practices, and leading-edge thinking about all aspects of publishing, authorship, and readership in the electronic environment," says Mark Sandler, Collection Development Officer for the University of Michigan University Library. Returning after a three-year hiatus, JEP will "continue to document the changes in publishing with the growth of the Internet, and to stimulate and shape the direction of those changes."

The Scholarly Publishing Office (SPO; was founded in 2001 to support academic publishing through a library-based publishing platform. SPO is also teaming with SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition; on the recently announced Publisher Assistance Program to provide business planning and digital publishing services to facilitate open-access publishing in the social sciences and humanities. Those services will be available to JEP as well, ensuring its future and keeping it at its original University of Michigan home.

SPO’s first issue of JEP will be in January, 2006. "JEP burst on the scene with a focus on experimentation, vision, and prediction," Sandler said. He said that now, ten years later, electronic publishing practices have stabilized for some formats and markets (for instance, scholarly journals have shown significant convergence of distribution and pricing models), but that many unresolved issues remain for newspapers, trade books, magazines, and newer forms of publishing like blogs and wikis. "All aspects of electronic publishing still face considerable change and sometimes upheaval, and a great deal of the creative turmoil that JEP captured in the mid-nineties still challenges publishers, authors, librarians, and readers. We still struggle to understand author and reader preferences, and still search for stable economic models that will allow publishing to flourish in an age of electronic communication," he said. "The new JEP will continue to look back over the past 20 or 30 years to see how we’ve come to this point in the history of publishing, and look forward to where publishing may be heading. It will look inward at key players and practices of publishing, and also look outward at movements on the margins that are challenging traditional publishing interests, and at readers worldwide affected by the interplay of technological and economic forces that have revolutionized social communication."

JEP‘s editor, Judith Axler Turner, will remain at the helm, with editorial input and publishing support from Mark Sandler and Maria Bonn. A new editorial board will be constituted, and JEP will solicit articles that present wide-ranging and diverse viewpoints on contemporary publishing practices, and encourage dialogue and understanding between key decision-makers in publishing and those who are affected by the decisions being made.

The first new issue will focus on the changes in electronic publishing in the past three years, exploring topics such as the rise of open access publishing, the increasingly complicated intellectual property landscape, the rise of new communication technologies, and the new economics of scholarly publishing. JEP is actively seeking feedback on its new direction and is also looking for high-quality submissions on these topics. Authors and others are invited to discuss JEP‘s future or submit articles by contacting the editorial team at Back issues of JEP may currently be found at

Strategic Planning Efforts at ARL Libraries, Part 2

Posted in ARL Libraries, Libraries, Webliographies on June 1st, 2005

How do some of the largest libraries in North America see their near-term future? This is part two of an investigation of that question. (Also see: Strategic Planning Efforts at ARL Libraries, Part 1.)

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) currently has 123 member libraries in the US and Canada. Below is a partial list of strategic planning Web sites at ARL libraries. This list was complied by a quick look at ARL libraries’ home pages, supplemented by limited site-specific Google searching. Web sites were included if the library’s strategic plan included the years 2004 and/or 2005.

Google Print Controversy Heats Up

Posted in Copyright, Google and Other Search Engines, Scholarly Communication on May 31st, 2005

Lots of ink (real and virtual) on Google Print and the AAUP’s recent resistance (all from Open Access News):

"Forget Google Print Copyright Infringement; Search Engines Already Infringe," SearchEngineWatch

"From Gutenberg to Google: Five Views on the Search-Engine Company’s Project to Digitize Library Books," The Chronicle
of Higher Education
(requires subscription)

"Google Books under Fire," The Register

"Google Library Project Hit by Copyright Challenge from University Presses," Information Today Newsbreaks

"Google Print Goes Live," InternetNews

"A Google Project Pains Publishers," Business Week

"Google This: ‘Copyright Law,’" Business Week

"Google’s Scan Plan Hits More Bumps," Forbes

"Publishers Lay into Google Print," ZDNet UK

"The University Press Assn.’s Objections," Business Week

"University-Press Group Raises Questions About Google’s Library-Scanning Project," The Chronicle of Higher Education

Strategic Planning Efforts at ARL Libraries, Part 1

Posted in ARL Libraries, Libraries, Webliographies on May 31st, 2005

How do some of the largest libraries in North America see their near-term future?

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) currently has 123 member libraries in the US and Canada. Below is a partial list of strategic planning Web sites at ARL libraries. This list was complied by a quick look at ARL libraries’ home pages, supplemented by limited site-specific Google searching. Web sites were included if the library’s strategic plan included the years 2004 and/or 2005.

Will You Only Harvest Some?

Posted in Disciplinary Archives, E-Prints, Institutional Repositories, OAI-PMH, Open Access on May 26th, 2005

The Digital Library for Information Science and Technology has announced DL-Harvest, an OAI-PMH service provider that harvests and makes searchable metadata about information science materials from the following archives and repositories:

  • ALIA e-prints
  • arXiv
  • Caltech Library System Papers and Publications
  • Documentation Research and Training Centre
  • DSpace at UNC SILS
  • E-LIS
  • Metadata of LIS Journals
  • OCLC Research Publications
  • OpenMED@NIC
  • WWW Conferences Archive

DL-Harvest is a much needed, innovative discipline-based search service. Big kudos to all involved.

DLIST also just announced the formation of an advisory board.

The following musings, inspired by the DL-Harvest announcement, are not intended to detract from the fine work that DLIST is doing or from the very welcome addition of DL-Harvest to their service offerings.

Discipline-focused metadata can be relatively easily harvested from OAI-PHM-compliant systems that are organized along disciplinary lines (e.g., the entire archive/repository is discipline-based or an organized subset is discipline-based). No doubt these are very rich, primary veins of discipline-specific information, but how about the smaller veins and nuggets that are hard to identify and harvest because they are in systems or subsets that focus on another discipline?

Here’s an example. An economist, who is not part of a research center or other group that might have its own archive, writes extensively about the economics of the scholarly publishing business. This individual’s papers end up in the economics department section of his or her institutional repository and in EconWPA. They are highly relevant to librarians and information scientists, but will their metadata records be harvested for use in services like DL-Harvest using OAI-PMH since they are in the wrong conceptual bins (e.g., set in the case of the IR)?

Coleman et al. point to one solution in their intriguing "Integration of Non-OAI Resources for Federated Searching in DLIST, an Eprints Repository" paper. But (lots of hand waving here), if using automatic metadata extraction was an easy and simple way to supplement conventional OAI-PMH harvesting, the bottom line question is: how good is good enough? In other words, what’s an acceptable level of accuracy for the automatic metadata extraction? (I won’t even bring up the dreaded "controlled vocabulary" notion.)

No doubt this problem falls under the 80/20 Rule, and the 20 is most likely in the low hanging fruit OAI-PMH-wise, but wouldn’t it be nice to have more fruit?

Streaming Video E-Reserves at Emory University Libraries

Posted in Digital Libraries, Digital Media, E-Reserves on May 25th, 2005

Emory’s Woodruff Library has a streaming video e-reserves service. Here are a few quotes:

Material to be digitized must be owned either by the library or by the person requesting the digitization. We will not digitize any third-party copies, recordings, or transfers, including personal recordings of television broadcasts or rentals. If you would like to digitize material that is not owned either by you or by the library, please contact us and we will attempt to purchase it for the library’s collection. . . .

We will digitize video and compress it into a streaming video format that is accessible via a link posted in ReservesDirect for the duration of the semester. Our current streaming formats of choice are Real and QuickTime. Real and quicktime video players may be downloaded freely from the web. . . . We will optimize the stream for a reasonably wide cross-section of those who are likely to view it. . . .

As with other materials that are digitized and placed on ReservesDirect, we will place a copyright notice at the beginning of all video we digitize. All digitized materials will be retained and archived solely by us. . . .

We will digitize up to 20% total of a commercially produced video or film. . . .

Since all video submitted is for use in an instructional context, we anticipate that all materials submitted will follow guidelines for what is appropriate for display in a classroom setting. Therefore we will not judge or censor materials submitted to us for digitization. However, if a challenge concerning the appropriateness of materials is submitted to us, we reserve the right to restrict access to digitized materials at any time while we review the challenge and make a decision on whether to continue access to the material.

No Respectable University Would Offer an Online Doctorate?

Posted in Information Schools, Libraries on May 25th, 2005

During the JESSE debate on online Ph.D.’s, Bill Summers said:

Relatedly, Universities which take themselves seriously do not permit external PHD programs. At any of the three institutions with which I have been privileged to be associated, Rutgers, South Carolina and Florida State, the Dean presenting such a proposal to the Faculty Senate would be hooted off campus and the program forever thereafter labeled as Mickey Mouse.

These are some universities that offer online doctorates (there are others that offer distance-education doctorates that aren’t "online" per se).

University of Arizona, College of Nursing

Boston University, College of Fine Arts

Boston University, Sargent College of Rehabilitation Sciences

Texas Tech University, Department of English

University of Hawaii, School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene

University of Maryland University College

University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, College of Nursing

Anyone hooting?

Online Ph.D. Programs Redux

Posted in Information Schools, Libraries on May 24th, 2005

My "Online Ph.D. Programs: Unique Clientele?" posting, which I also sent as a message to the JESSE list, triggered a long discussion thread on that list. It makes for very interesting reading. (Choose "Next in topic" in the View box to move from message to message.) For related threads, see the May archive.

Let me briefly recap some of my main points in light of this discussion. Academic librarians with faculty or faculty-like status who are at the associate and full levels do not need to be taught how to be scholars: they are scholars. In this respect they represent a unique doctoral clientele. What they need, if they do not have them, are Ph.D.’s. They do not want to quit their jobs or commute long distances to get them from the few information schools that remain. If they wanted Ph.D.’s in other subject areas, they would not be troubling information school faculty. Certainly, a DLIS option would be a welcome alternative to nothing. However, they are not in any way intimidated by the prospect of a research degree. They are researchers. They are interested in a research degree, but many have no interest in joining the ranks information school faculty. Having a research degree will help them in their current career path in a variety of ways.

Illustrating the point that academic librarians are researchers, an examination of high-impact library-oriented journals would likely show: (1) academic librarians edit such journals, (2) information school faculty edit such journals, (3) academic librarians publish in journals edited by information school faculty, (4) information school faculty publish in journals edited by academic librarians, (5) academic librarians often cite papers written by information school faculty, and (6) information school faculty often cite papers written by academic librarians. In short, the peer-reviewed library literature is a co-mingling of the scholarly work of academic librarians, information school faculty, and others. If all identifying information were stripped away from a peer-reviewed library journal article, it would be impossible to determine if it was written by an academic librarian or an information school faculty member.

In spite of some frustrations, most academic librarians have a high regard for information school faculty and believe that what they do is very important. However, they find it difficult to understand how, in 2005, with the wide array of digital technologies at information schools’ disposal why, in light of their unique circumstances, their needs cannot be adequately met with these technologies, supplemented by brief on-campus stays. This dialog has revealed a number of information school faculties’ concerns. It appears to me that a key one is that such a degree would not be viewed as legitimate by faculty in other disciplines at the local institution. This is understandable, because these faculty do not have a potential doctoral study body with similar characteristics. But, depending on local circumstances, they may, at the same time, be officially recognizing local librarians as faculty members or as having a faculty-like status. They sit beside them at the Faculty Senate, and they may have elected an academic librarian to lead them. This could be pointed out to them as a case was made for establishing a special program that was designed to reflect the unique status of academic librarians.

The extent of interest in an online Ph.D. program among academic librarians may not be apparent to information school faculty. However, market research is likely to reveal that a significant subset of academic librarians are interested in pursuing such an option, and information schools that overcome the barriers that prevent such programs will find that their pool of potential doctoral students is significantly expanded with experienced, highly desirable candidates that they would never otherwise attract.


Based on a JESSE message from Ian M. Johnson, it appears that the Information Management department at The Robert Gordon University in the UK is about to offer an online Ph.D. (It currently has six online Master’s programs.)

Scholarly Electronic Publishing Weblog Update (5/23/05)

Posted in Announcements on May 23rd, 2005

The biweekly update of the Scholarly Electronic Publishing Weblog (SEPW) is now available, which provides brief information on 20+ new journal issues and other resources. Especially interesting is a new issue of the INDICARE Monitor, which has an article about Digital Rights Management (DRM) and open access by Richard Poynder. Also, Walt Crawford weighs in on the DigitalKoans Bailey-Harnad debates in the latest Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, and there is a theme issue of Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship on open access.

Online Ph.D. Programs: Unique Clientele?

Posted in Information Schools, Libraries on May 21st, 2005

Information schools have one group of potential Ph.D. students that appear to have unique characteristics: academic librarians with faculty or faculty-like status.

To advance in rank in these up-or-out systems, academic librarians:

  1. Publish in peer-reviewed journals, edit such journals, serve on the editorial boards of such journals, write books, and edit books. They also write, edit, and serve on editorial boards of a variety of other publications.
  2. Write proposals for, manage, and analyze the results of funded research projects.
  3. Make presentations at professional conferences and elsewhere.
  4. Teach for-credit and non-credit courses.
  5. Serve as adjunct faculty in information schools.
  6. Serve on committees and as officers of professional associations.
  7. Often obtain multiple master’s degrees.

This is not to say that other librarians do not also perform the above activities; however, academic librarians with faculty or faculty-like status are typically required to do 1, 3, and 6, with the main difference in such requirements being on the need to perform higher-level activities in 1. And they are "rewarded" for performing all of them.

So, what other disciplines with Ph.D. programs have potential students with similar requirements? If the answer is "none" and if the above activities are not viewed as a kind of faux scholarship, then it would appear that experienced members this client group (say those with associate status or above) have characteristics that suggest that their need for enculturation, lengthy preliminary study, and other academic requirements that are obviously needed for freshly minted undergraduates or inexperienced MLS graduates is limited or nonexistent. Consequently, they may be quite successful in online Ph.D. programs where these other students would fail, especially if online study is supplemented with brief on-campus stays.

The Nearly Nonexistant Online Ph.D.

Posted in Information Schools, Libraries on May 19th, 2005

Well, I had that bit about UNT offering an online Ph.D. program wrong. UNT’s grant PI Brian O’Connor says:

I must say that our program is NOT web-based, though it has a strong web component. Our IMLS cohort members are considered members of the same doctoral program and subject to the same requirements as our "residential" students. . . . The IMLS program is design[ed] so that more than 51% of course time is conducted with the same level of face-to-face engagement between students and faculty as would be the case for residential students. . . . I would comment that enculturation is terribly important, though one might be able to imagine someone making major contributions while not being "enculturated.". . . Perhaps more intriguing is the assertion that enculturation cannot be adequately accomplished within a virtual environment. Is this a necessary case? Is it not at all true now, but possible with different technology?. . . . Is there not some virtual way to accomplish critical thinking, sharing, debating, using different perspectives? So far, our experience shows that such give and take is quite possible, especially if the students have had an opportunity to meet each other face-to-face at some point early on. Please do not take the above to mean that I prefer the possibility of a virtual academy—I do not. I am simply suggesting that we not toss out the possibilities, at least, not yet.

Looks like we’re down to one online Ph.D. program (and waiting for a disclaimer on that one). Since it’s only been about 12 years since the Web took off with the release of the alpha version of Mosaic, I guess we need to be patient.

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Digital Scholarship

Copyright © 2005-2017 by Charles W. Bailey, Jr.

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